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“9 1/2 Weeks”: Way better than 39 weeks

June 30, 2011

Well, we’re ready. I’m ready. There’s the hand-painted changing table, dressed up after rescuing it from Craigslist, and the purple rug bought at Saks’s going-out-of-business sale, and the little bookcase painted with the faces of Eloise.

We’re registered at the hospital. Drivers have been lined up. Yep, I’m ready in every way to have this baby — except emotionally.

When you’ve carefully donor shopped, spent a small fortune on installing this fetus, jabbed needles into — well, ambivalence seems the one luxury you can’t afford. And yet, I insist. I will have my pregnancy and my ambivalence, too.

There’s the minor ambivalence, or as I like to think of it, the opportunity cost of parenting. I imagine it as, yes, the birth of a life I’ve dreamed of, but also the disappearance of a self that I knew and loved, even if I didn’t always like her. Now the truth is, I’ve had plenty of friends who had children and were not transformed into completely different beings. They retained their humor, their irreverence, their blistering vocabularies. I hope that I will, too. But from this side of the chasm, I imagine my current self disappearing in a hospital room, with some new, unknown self emerging. I’m sure I’ll like the new self, but I may miss the old one.

The bigger ambivalence, however, revolves around the actual, corporeal emergence of this life into this world. I want to meet my daughter. It’s so bizarre to me that we have spent so much time together, that I have willingly surrendered stomach, kidney and diaphragm space to her comfort, yet I have no idea what she looks like or if she will share my appreciation for the “My Dinner with Andre” episode of “Community.” What if she insists that “Dancing in the Dark” is Springsteen’s masterpiece? Can I allow her to develop her own terrible opinions?

The thing is, in order to meet her, I apparently have to birth her. And this has me stone-cold terrified. Not just nervously anticipating the process, but in a state where I haven’t fallen asleep before 3 a.m. in weeks. Fearing every last aspect of it: How bad will this pain be? What is my actual tolerance for pain? Am I strong enough to push? Will I have a massive stroke? Will I hear the doctor’s exasperated sigh as he says, “She clearly can’t do it. Get me the scalpel.” Lots of women get epidurals, get Pitocin, get Caesareans. Yet somehow I have absorbed all the judgment that is proclaimed from every corner of the Internet, usually preceded by the phrase, “I would never judge any woman’s choices, but …” I can recognize all that self-satisfied, smug female competitiveness, but I can’t expel it.

Last week, My Young Man pointed out my swollen feet to the OB, who was concerned it could be a sign of pre-eclampsia (as opposed to, say, carrying around an extra 35 pounds in 95-degree heat). He proposed inducing labor, and I felt my skin go cold, my ears distancing his words as if they were coming from down the hall. I went to have blood tests, urine tests, etc. The resultant diagnosis: I have swollen feet. This week, I expressed my anxiety about the baby’s slowed kicking to my doctor, and again he offered to induce me. I set him straight.

“I am a neurotic person. I will continue to be a neurotic person. If you are concerned about my health or the baby’s health, let’s talk induction. Otherwise, you’re going to have to let me live with my anxiety and let the pregnancy take its natural course.”

I felt very bold. And then, of course, I questioned my statement for the next several hours, trying to parse his facial expressions to make sure that neither I nor the baby was in any danger. I’m pretty sure blowing a gasket is not a fatal condition.

So for now, I wait. And stew. And marvel at the idea that things could be perfectly normal one minute, and everything could change the next.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Melissa permalink
    July 1, 2011 11:07 am

    It’s gonna hurt, it’s gonna suck, but you will be able to do it, hang in there. At some point you will look at her and realize that this is the best thing you have ever done with your life. It’s what life is all about. The love and realization make not be there in the beginning so don’t panic if it isn’t. It will come though. It’s the best, it really is.

  2. Joy permalink
    July 5, 2011 10:12 am

    I think what you’re feeling is normal. I never felt like I lost myself after my 2 kids but I did feel like this new part of me emerged that was very foreign – a mother? That’s not me, I thought. That’s my mom and other people. I think I was afraid of being what I didn’t like about mothers and had to learn there are things I was not going to like about myself as I tried motherhood out & learned. But thank God kids don’t remember much before 3. I think God designed it that way to be merciful to us because we all make mistakes. 🙂 I hope you really enjoy being a mother! It is a lot of fun. ps-I found this resource called the Mom’s Guide to Caring for Little Teeth ( I wish I’d had this info the first time around with my first son. Hoping it makes a difference with my 2nd.

    • July 5, 2011 8:11 pm

      Thank you so much! I think that allowing ourselves to feel that way is just a huge gift to ourselves.

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